Unbreakable WhatsApp breaks


With Marshal John Mdeza:
I adore Joe Nicholas’s song ‘The Impossible’. He says in that song that, sometimes, unsinkable ships sink and unbendable steel does bend just like that. For 13 years, Joe had come to believe that his father never shed tears and behold the granny died and his father’s eyes almost got washed away with a flooded river of tears. Until this month, I had erroneously believed that WhatsApp was unbendable steel and just like Joe Nicholas, have learnt never to underestimate the impossible.
WhatsApp is undisputed software marvel whose encryption levels has and still is very dependable. The App has a ‘no advertising’ policy and that has made it difficult for advertising companies to harvest data from its servers.
WhatsApp makes communication cheap and easy. K560 per month for both local and international messaging is a miracle in a country like Malawi. You can use the same K560 worth of data to make calls depending on how good the network is in your area.
The Financial Times reported this week that the notorious Israeli spy firm, NSO was able to hack WhatsApp accounts and managed to steal data. Did NSO break WhatsApp’s encryption? Not at all. The hacker group infiltrated the system through WhatsApp call.
As they say, every piece of software is work in progress. What that means is that it does not matter how careful the code writers of software are, there will always be something that can be an open window that can let in hackers. That is why updates are provided from time to time to seal vulnerabilities.
The Israeli NSO group discovered a hole in WhatsApp call that they exploited; they found out that there are a lot of processes that happen before the system registers a call, that is why there is a delay between the time a call is made on one end and received on the other end. During this time, the system can be hacked by injecting it with spy software which can steal data.
This is done before the callers number is registered on the recipient number. In that case, the caller leaves no traces whatsoever.
What was the motive of NSO? This hacker group is usually hired by governments to intrude social media accounts of opponents of governments like civil society leaders. According to Facebook, the owners of WhatsApp, the group was able to steal data of civil society leaders around the world. All they did was steal data by simply making a WhatsApp call to a number, gatecrash spyware and steal data.
Are you scared? You need not be; WhatsApp has released an update that automatically fixes the exposure. All you need to do is to download the update and you will be good to go.
Resonating with another artist Michael Bubble in ‘Crazy Love’, let me sign off by saying that, if WhatsApp makes you hear its heartbeat from a thousand miles and makes you feel good when you are feeling low-down, don’t despair—the App is just as good and will continue to give you crazy communication love and make you feel whole.

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